Just how good is new Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin? If the past few days at the World Hockey Championships are any indication, it might be time to start getting excited.
Panarin, a shifty, undersized winger who's drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane, has been earning gushing reviews for his play with Russia this month. The 23-year-old signed with the Blackhawks last week after being courted by several other teams and seems to be making the NHL leap at just the right time.
Panarin and the Russians met Team USA on Monday in the World Championships, giving many a chance to see the winger in action -- YouTube highlight videos aside -- for the first time. How did it go? Well, the winger dished a beautiful assist on Russia's first goal of the game, and according to the responses across social media, GM Stan Bowman may have unearthed a gem.
Panarin nearly scores, Blackhawks fans are going to love him. Spoke to CHI scout here who says he fits how Blackhawks play perfectly.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) May 4, 2015
@CraigCustance @HockeyBroad I've covered the KHL many years.Panarin has been the best forward past 2 years.He'll be awesome for the bhawks.— Antti Mäkinen (@makinenantti) May 4, 2015
Fans were getting excited, too:
Watching this game makes me so happy we got Panarin.— nikka (@mariyabrn) May 4, 2015
Panarin is going to be something special. Damnit, Chicago.— Kara (@_Karaaaa_) May 4, 2015
Damn PANARIN is just EVERYWHERE---it makes your brain want to explode with giddy excitement!— bookshockey (@BooksHockey) May 4, 2015
Omg those hands on Panarin Russia this on Belov goal set up by Panarin #Blackhawks— SportsHash (@sportshashhash) May 4, 2015
Oh man. Artemi Panarin looks good vs USA. Sweet hands #Blackhawks #IIHFWorlds— 10 wins from Stanley (@Arjun_AJB) May 4, 2015
Blackhawks fans, you're going to love this Panarin kid. I mean, I don't want him to score in this game but he's looking great.— sarah. (@goorgoahead) May 4, 2015
We already knew that Panarin was an intriguing and exciting talent who could potentially translate his KHL success to the North American game, so this isn't exactly ground-breaking stuff. It is highly encouraging, however, to see Panarin not only play well at the Worlds, but often look like the most dynamic player on the ice. This was only a slice of the excitement that was displayed on Twitter during the USA-Russia game.
What does it all mean for the Blackhawks? Probably not much, since they presumably were already aware of Panarin's potential. We still don't know how his game will play in the NHL, or how he'll react to the changes that come with moving to the United States in his early 20s.
It seems pretty clear that Panarin is one of the most skilled young players the Blackhawks could've acquired, though, and right now, that's enough to be excited. Panarin's contract includes an out clause if he fails to make the roster, but hopefully he won't have to use it.